Reducing carbon footprint in the contact center?

Gary Kim at TMCnet has an article on “How much can telecommuting cut carbon footprint?” which offers some insight into the cost savings related to not having to commute to a corporate office:

Lots of people these days are interested in telecommuting, at least in part because of its ability to reduce carbon footprint. Assume that a 100-person company could allow telecommuting three days a week.

Also, assume that employees commuting an average of 33 miles one day to reach their workplace, and that those employees switch to telecommuting three days a week. Also assume that all those avoided trips are taken by automobile.

That enterprise can avoid producing 6,351 pounds of hydrocarbons, 47,362 pounds of carbon monoxide, 3,146 pounds of oxides of nitrogen and 943,124 pounds of carbon dioxide, while saving 47,773 pounds of gasoline each year.

That analysis uses an average fuel economy of 21.5 miles per gallon.

Assume a fuel price of $2.75 per gallon. Workers save $750 in avoided fuel costs each week. Over a month those employees commuting three days a week save $3,250 in fuel costs and over a year will save $39,000 in fuel expenses.

That’s just the savings for the employees. There are savings for the company, too.

Now applying to the contact center business, is there a way to reduce carbon footprint?

Does a cloud-based contact center solution reduce carbon footprint? Not necessarily. Although there are immediate cost savings associated with deploying a cloud-based IVR, the solution provider still has to power its (massive) infrastructure and employ a sizable operations staff to keep the place running.

What about outsourced agents? Although this lowers your headcount and having to provide office spaces, it’s merely shifting the carbon footprint away to the outsource vendor. Plus, most of the time these vendors are far away — sometimes in India, Latin America, or the Philippines — where they pay even less attention to reducing carbon footprint. Their agents still have to commute to work and maybe use older computer equipment which draws more power.

What about on-demand agents? This is the business model for companies like LiveOps which has a platform for companies to expand and contract their contact center workforce based on demand. Most of these agents are home-based, so they save costs on commuting. However, they still have to power their PCs and broadband equipment, as well as home heating/air. Not so much of a reduction?

And during a solution implementation? Odds are you are flying in consultants from other places to work on your project. Air travel is definitely not carbon friendly. If your company has a green initiative and yet rely heavily on flown-in contractors, then you ought to raise this issue to executives. The company may have bought the greenest technologies, but still deficient in executing a green project plan.

Factors such as globalization, economics, and implementation make it difficult for a contact center to reduce carbon footprint significantly. Is there hope? It’s up to the companies to come up with their green initiatives and make sure everyone, top to bottom, is on board. Company processes and policies should be aligned to facilitate the execution of green initiatives: vendor selection, hardware procurement, telecommuting policy, travel policy, facilities management, etc. If enough companies insist on reducing carbon footprint in their contact centers, then the vendors will pay attention to this demand and adjust accordingly.


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